Oh hey, it's the America I want to see
President Biden's speech, supporting India's covid-19 crisis, and getting Basquiat out of the NFT grift
I watched President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress last week and I kept cheering slash not quite believing what I was hearing. It wasn’t perfect, and there are things I missed. I wish he could have been even more direct about his confused and GOP-appeasing immigration policy. I wish he had repped the For The People Act in his strong defense of democracy because it’s hard to defend democracy from outside criticism when it’s crumbling here at home. And while I too support a policy of replacing lead pipes that are poisoning children across the country, I don’t think it’s an applause-worthy line because not poisoning kids is a given in my book.
But with those caveats...
I seriously could not believe how well the president did. His strong linking of climate to jobs was wrapped in easy-to-digest rhetoric like, “this is a blue-collar blueprint to build America.” His promotion of the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan showed that, like Republicans, Democrats can also brand policies and make them hard to object to. (“Are you against jobs and families??”) Biden seems to have learned from his time in the Obama administration that you always need to press your case and push the opposition to engage on your terms. “Doing nothing is not an option,” he said, along with some version of “Get at me with your plan you sucka MCs” which I cannot find in the transcript but am sure I heard.
The most unexpected moment for me came when President Biden discussed major threats posed by Iran and North Korea. I remember thinking, “but what about the threats posed by domestic terrorists and white supremacists?” And then the president said what was in my damn head. He slyly employed the language of nationalism and American ego in service of progressive policies in an attempt to create more of a “we” narrative rather than “us versus them.”
I have no doubt Republicans will try to object to everything in the speech. I don’t believe any of the worthy plans and promises our president made will come to pass easily or fully intact. But I do feel good that he made an aggressive, optimistic case for an America I want to see.
We’re continuing the rollout of season two of How To Citizen with Baratunde. Last week we dropped an episode all about Amazon, how the mega-company is taking our money and undermining our democracy— and what we can do about it.
Check out last week’s virtual gala for the Brooklyn Public Library. It’s a 30-minute documentary showing mad love for Brooklyn, libraries, and Spike and Tonya Lee who were our honorees. I say “our” because I’m the narrator of the film and serve on the board of trustees for this great democratic institution. The video expires May 10!
How to Help India Amid the Covid-19 Crisis (The New York Times)
Things in India look dire. I’ve got so many Desi friends and have had the pleasure of visiting this amazing country twice in my life, once for a wedding and once to film a series about UN sustainable development goals around solar dryers and girls in science. Please do what you can to help and keep our fellow humans in your hearts. I recommend two organizations run by people I know and trust or that are recommended by the same: The Desai Foundation and Khalsa Aid International.
Why tech firms like Facebook and Neurable want to link your brain to computers (The Washington Post)
Hard to know where to start with this. I featured such technology back in 2009 when I hosted Science Channel’s “The Future Of” and this tech was allegedly just around the corner. I used my brain to move a tiny ball into a hole and felt like a tiny god. The direction this is going troubles me. While there are incredible medical uses for such technology, we don’t have the regulatory or ethical framework in place to let Facebook directly access our brains. What concerns me most now is that almost everyone promoting this technology thinks the primary goal is to make us more productive worker bees. How unimaginative.
Art exhibition showcases homeless people’s photos throughout lockdown (Shropshire Star)
This the first time I’m ever linking to this publication covering Shropshire and Mid Wales in the UK. It’s a great piece about getting stories from different perspectives and remembering we are all human. As one man in the project says, “There’s another side to everyone on the streets.”
Basquiat’s Estate Shoots Down an Attempt to Sell an NFT of His Work (Observer)
Let’s combine art and tech and greeeeeed. I’m fascinated by NFTs and disturbed by this twist in the evolving medium. I’m glad Basquiat’s estate stepped in, and remember, just because someone says you’re buying all the rights doesn’t mean you are!
Hollywood’s Anti-Black Bias Costs It $10 Billion a Year (The New York Times)
“Inclusion isn’t expensive. Exclusion is.” So writes Franklin Leonard of The Black List, backed by a report from McKinsey of all places! Smooth move getting this profiteering organization to make the case for racial justice. So many of us have made this argument including Heather McGhee in episode two of the latest season of How To Citizen. Read it, and let’s do better.
The Long, Occasionally Dark, and Ultimately Triumphant Career of Delroy Lindo (GQ)
The payoff of the above story is we get more Delroy Lindo! I love me some Delroy Lindo! I once ran into him on the streets of San Francisco maybe five years ago. I doubled back and was so excited and told him how much his work meant to me. My college homie Mosi Secret wrote this piece. Good job!
They Hacked McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines—and Started a Cold War (Wired)
Longread! Stick around for this: “Shamrock season is a big fucking deal!” What an epic story that also makes me want ice cream right now, but not from McDonald’s. Be right back!
Click through to see this time-lapse masterpiece by artist Bou Bou.
Thanks to Michelle, Elizabeth, and Kyra for the links and suggestions.